Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Stepping up and stepping out: Co-constructing with community Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work curriculum (#56)

Bindi Bennett 1 , Joanna Zubrzycki 1 , Helen Redfern 1
  1. Australian Catholic University, Watson, ACT, Australia

Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing have become core social work curriculum and are central to decolonising Australian social work education. All Australian Schools of Social Work must now embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content within their programs to be accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers. Achieving this objective requires multiple strategies including the development of new teaching and learning resources.

How these resources are constructed is however just as important as what they aim to teach students. The processes adopted by social work educators need to reflect the culturally responsive practices that are expected from our social work graduates. The presentation reports on an Australian Catholic University curriculum development project which focussed on the co-construction of two filmed case studies that demonstrate authentic social work engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The aim was to ensure that the processes undertaken reflected the core principle of epistemological equality, which recognises that Aboriginal knowledges are equal to Western knowledges.

 The extensive community consultation process, conducted by an Aboriginal social work academic and her two non-Indigenous colleagues, was central to the development of the film scripts. Over a three month period meetings were held with a range of stakeholders in NSW, Queensland and the ACT. Community Elders, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous social workers, academics and students were invited to provide feedback on the stories. As a result, critical changes were made. These included careful consideration of issues such as gender, stereotyping, identity, family and community obligations and the use of language. The key insights and understandings that emerged from this pedagogy are presented as an opportunity to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘doing’ in action.